Chagan Lake (Chagan Hu) is a lake in Songyuan City, stretching over two counties and one city, namely Qian Gorlos county, Qian’an county and Da’an city. The name "Chagan" is from Mongolian, meaning sacred, pure or white, so the lake is often referred to as Sacred Lake or Holy Water Lake by local people. Covering an area of 420 square kilometers, including 347 square kilometers of lake surface and about 70 square kilometers of lakeside swamps. it measures 37 km in length from south to north, and 17 km from east to west. Its geographical coordinates are N45°10′~45°21′,E124°04′~124°27′.
Chagan Lake is located in the undulating alluvial plain area, characterized by flat landform, and sloping from south to north. The area has contiguous grasslands. Continental semi-arid monsoon climate dominates in the area, annual average temperature being 4-5 ℃, annual average precipitation being 400-500mm and evaporation being 1140-1270mm. The water supply of Chagan Lake mainly depends on rainfall and water channeled from Songhua River.
Chagan Lake is rich in natural resources. In addition to the aquatic resources composed of 15 families and 68 species of shrimp, reed and pearl (carp, silver carp, bighead carp and crucian carp), it has been a paradise for wild animals and birds since ancient times. The preliminary research has proved there are more than 20 kinds of wild animals such as fox, rabbit, raccoon dog and badger in the grassland, woods and fields; there are more than 80 kinds of rare birds such as pheasant, wild duck, wild goose, grey gull, heron, swan and red crowned crane in the green field with beautiful water, nutrient and grass; plus, it is also a natural botanical garden with more than 200 kinds of wild plants, including 149 medicinal herbs.
How do they exactly catch fish on the icy Chagan Lake?
First, drill an hole every eight or nine meters on the one-meter-or-so-thick ice layer. For one throw of net, hundreds of such holes need to be drilled. The next step is to place net or fishhooks under the ice. Because of the length of the net, horses will be used to pull the net through winch so that the net can be put in place. Typically, it takes eight to nine hours just to cast the fishing net. When it’s time to pull the net back, several big horses will pull the winch and roll.
When the net is closed, several high headed horses pull the winch to roll the steel wire rope. The fish under the ice layer wrapped in a big net of four or five meters wide emerges slowly from the outlet one meter wide and two meters long. The fishermen spread the fish on the ice surface, and the people on both sides take the special woven bag prepared by the fishing ground and put their chosen fish into the bag.
On the first day of the fishing, the locals hold some interesting rituals to offer sacrifices to the lake and wake up the net. Such customs can date back to Liao and Jin Dynasty, having a history of hundreds of years.